Joshua Wilton House celebrates 130th anniversary

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — The Joshua Wilton House is a well-known landmark for people who live in Harrisonburg and for many of those who visit. This year, the home is celebrating a 130-year anniversary.

The home is 130 years old this year, built in 1888.

Bill Daulton, General Manager of the now fine dining restaurant and inn, said Joshua Wilton built the house for his family in 1888.

"He was a Canadian engineer that came down from the north to kind of make a name for himself," said Daulton.

The house then became the Shank House, a boarding house, a fraternity house for Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE), and then an architect purchased it to restore it. After that, it was reopened on its 100th birthday as a bed and breakfast and restaurant.

Jeff Hill, one of the managing partners for the Joshua Wilton House, as well as the Local Chop and Grill, said he was friends with fraternity brothers when it was the TKE house.

"It's kind of really strange, you know, at the same time it does feel kind of right," said Hill.

The partners purchased it three and a half years ago.

"You know, we wanted to bring it back to its glory and then some, so we're looking forward to what lies ahead," said Hill.

The partners are passionate about preserving the history. They recently purchased some pieces from Joshua Wilton's granddaughter's estate sale.

"We don't want to make this into a museum at all, but we do think the authenticity is a very important aspect of it," said Hill.

Right now, they are working on shedding stereotypes associated with the old home.

"We're anxious to break down that paradigm and make it something a little bit more approachable for everybody," said Hill.

Most recently, they started a wine club, as well as doing wine pairing dinners. They took home the Wine Spectator Award in September for 2018.

"It's a pretty thorough process, so we are very happy to receive it," said Daulton.

Although changes are made on the inside, it is important to the business that they keep the character of the home alive.

"We're definitely a small drop in the bucket of people who have helped maintain this home over the years, but it makes us really proud that we can hit this milestone," said Daulton.